Saturday, September 4, 2010

What I Learned From Earl

The other day the Witty Redhead (the one with freckles) wrote a nice little essay outlining the importance of personal goals and of taking advantage of opportunity. With her permission I would like to expand on her thoughts a little. Actually, it is without her permission...whatever.

While it is important to have goals, I figure that folks somehow need to develop the desire for goaling. While it makes sense to seize opportunity as it floats by, you gotta' be able to recognize that opportunity when it is staring in your face. In other words I'm gonna' suggest a foundation needed to do these things. Sort of a Going Back to the Roots thing.

It has to do with my father who passed away many years ago. He spent his career in municipal management. And he was one of those motivator guys. In his large staff meetings he would always stress that everyone needed to figure out what it is they wanted to accomplish and nudge things so that their lives would start leaning in that direction. He would follow up on that with meeting with his people on the jobsite and discuss those practical issues that were holding them back and work with them to get through it. Always practical and never preachy. His employees would always go the extra mile for him. He believed that unless his employees were successful and pleased with themselves, they would never be successful on the job.

I guess when I was around thirteen he gave me a record to play. Record? You know, an old fashioned audio data device. This record contained a verbal essay by a gent named Earl Nightingale who was a successful motivation guru of the time. I don't remember most of what he said -- but one thing stuck with me and has served me in good stead. What I remember is when Earl talked about gardening.

Now I am going to talk to you. Not the collective You -- not the thousands, hundreds, four people people that read this blog -- but You. The individual You.

Let's imagine you decided to plant a little garden -- just to see if you could actually make something grow. You dig up and weed a little plot of ground. Very tenderly you plant a kernel of corn. Then a foot or so away you plant a seed of Nightshade. Now Nightshade is deadly poisonous to humans and I don't know why you are planting this because I can't see into your brain and I am concerned about you and -- oh never mind.

Proud of your deed you gently add fertilizer and water it. Every day you visit your garden and pull weeds out and lovingly water it. After a while, guess what happens?

The picture of the left is your corn stalk, the result of you time and effort. The one on the right is Nightshade, also the result of your time and effort. Actually, the Nightshade is kinda' pretty.

That's the story. See ya' later and have a good day.

Huh? No -- it's not a stupid story. There is deep meaning here. Consider:

The soil is like your mind -- fertile and vibrant and ready to accept whatever you plant. If you plant a kernel of corn, a good and productive and healthy idea -- and water it and tend to it with supportive and kind and warm thoughts -- it will produce a wonderful plant. You idea will flourish. When you plant Nightshade -- feed it with thoughts of doubt and fear and nourish it with a fertilizer of hate and distrust, it too will produce a magnificent plant. Your mind will produce in abundance whatever you plant. The mind simply doesn't care. What you sow you shall reap.

Now when I listened to this Earl Nightingale story as a youngster I wasn't too impressed. But as years passed I begin to discover that if I began to doubt myself it was so easy to add fertilizer to that doubt, justifying the truth of it and I would become fearful and timid in my actions. How could I establish goals or take advantage of opportunity when my life was governed by a perception of my own inability? But then I would look around and see calm and confident people and I could actually see them feeding their corn plant by the way they would latch onto nifty ideas and thoughts and would calmly reject weeds in their garden -- stuff that would pull them away. More and more I thought about the garden thing and it donned on me that I am truly the gardener and I could plant whatever I liked. It took me a while to figure out that I can grow corn, and I am pleased with the result.

I guess it boils down to: "You are what you think about -- all day long."  Riches? I'm not so sure about that. Success? Well, I figure the odds increase pretty dramatically if you are happy with yourself and you have a pretty good idea where you are going and you learn how to make your family life rewarding because that feeds your garden and when you walk into a room people are pleased to see you because you see them as major assets to your life and instead of waking up each morning fearful and dreading the day, you wake up pleased and looking forward to what you can accomplish......well, I would consider that pretty successful.

I quickly learned that fear, paranoia, sadness, and hate will explode within you and make you someone that I don't want to be around. I just don't want to wake up each morning afraid. I want to wake up more than that -- hopeful, excited and grateful.  

That's what I learned from Earl from that 33 rpm record way back in the 1950's. It's something to consider.


  1. Brilliant. Well written and thought provoking. I wish I'd said that.

  2. I like that you say you are what you think about all day. Exactly. That is one reason we do not watch TV, we have learned how important it is to be so picky about what we allow into our life, every hour of every day is important especially now that we are eyes wide open kind of people and in our sixties. I would have liked your father because you say he was " Always practical and never preachy."

  3. Wow. I wonder what it would be like to work for a motivator guy. Perhaps I did, but all of the back stabbing, back biting and undermining kept me from seeing it and experiencing something good.

    Yep, in all of thirty something (nearly forty) years of working, it all pretty much sucked. In it all, however, I was successful. I raised a family, provided for them adequately, and my children are relatively happy. They are honest, and respected in the community.

    Oh, and I was successful elsewhere, as well. I never became like those %$@*&% I worked for. I am content with the me I am.

    Nightshade is rather pretty, isn't it?

  4. Really, really makes sense. I have some aquaintences who really love Nightshade. So sad for corn is much easier to grow.

  5. Fantastic. But why is the nightshade so pretty? It's a lot prettier than the corn, isn't it, though dangerous and not nutritive. Maybe this is why it is a temptation sometimes to feed the wrong plant.

  6. I think my problem is that I live in an apartment, with no garden. Maybe that explains a lot about me. I should regard my life as a little window box and fill it with pretty flowers. Beautiful and pointless. Much like myself....

  7. Very well said, Jerry. And an important lesson as well. It's very easy to let nightshade tempt you to the dark thoughts some days. Thanks for the thought provoking words today - I needed that.

  8. "I am truly the gardener"

    That's it in a nutshell.

  9. Hmmm, isn't Nightshade poison.... :)

    My brother-in-law used to play his favorite record for me. It was Andy Griffith and the title was "What It Was Was Football." It was great.

    You are soooo right, discontent leaves one totally alone, weeds in the mind is a disease.

  10. It is definitely worth considering! What a fantastic story. Your father's lesson is one I've been trying, sometimes successfully, to apply myself. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Excellent and sage advice. I remember our little "planting the seed talk". You are 100% correct. I like the fact you are also a farmer who sews his seeds and shares them with others.
    Another one of your many qualities, and reason why so many are glad to see you walk into the room, or your words to appear on their computer screen.

  12. Beautiful post. I guess all of us at times contemplate the way our lives unfolds; we are all scared and timid and anxious at times. I know I am. I guess it is time for me to plant corn.;))
    Have a wonderful end of the weekend Jerry,

  13. i have some of Earl's old tapes at home.. but my favorite is Zig Ziggler. My girls were always afraid that I would make them watch "uhh-nuther" one of his tapes,,, and I did. They didnt know it, but they learned something,,, and so did I...

    funny thing,, i mowed all day yesterday,, no that waddent funnie.. I took a break and was thinking how much fun we had with the gardens that i used to grow while they were growing up...I am sure they learned something from that too.

    And I learned something from you post today too..thanx for that..........

  14. Jerry, I am glad that you bumped into my blog because it has allowed me to discover your blog.

    I really appreciate this part of your comment about libraries you left on my blog: "You take away my library and you take away my life." It's excellent to know people feel that way.

    I will be reading your blog, and I hope to update mine more often. I'm working on my Master of Library and Information Science degree right now, and the beginning of the school year has directed my focus to reading and writing for assignments. Take care!

  15. Great post. Lots of things to consider.

  16. Sweetie, you are a freakin' genius. Even if you DID steal the idea from someone else...and (no offense to her...well, maybe a little) you've obviously made it So. Much. Better.

    Did you notice how that scary plant on the right is kind of giving the evil eye with those three yellow prongie-thingies? Or like it's beckoning you with long, yellow, cigarette-stained witch's fingers? I would definitely like some corn please.

    What? That's not the point of this post?

    Seriously, though. It's freakin' true. If you wallow in negativity, you'll attract more negativity. That's why I try to ignore the bad stuff as much as possible. No good can come of it. And the people who accomplish the most are the ppl who didn't realize that they shouldn't have been able to do it in the first place.

    Or, is that "ignorance is bliss"? I always get those confused.

    Great post, either way. You ROCK.

  17. This ties right in with what one of my favorite motivators said..."Sharpen the saw."
    Steven Covey...

  18. Everything you say is so true. I love the garden metaphor because it is visual whereas what happens in our brains is abstract. I truly believe one of the best parts of aging is the ability to gain an inner confidence that is impossible to have at a young age. It takes years of experience and mistakes to find that place where the plot of land is ripe for growing beautiful and fruitful plants instead of hateful weeds.

  19. This post is exactly what I was trying to tell my little sister. Although you say it better. Gonna have to send her over here.

  20. This is kind of a 'heavy' post to stumble across and absorb on a Saturday morning, but I'm glad I did...

    'Tis an issue I struggle with every day, and a concept I grasp, but always have difficulty implementing. I like the vivid parable--reminds me to keep weeding and nurturing (just got to remember which to yank and which to water).

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this...

  21. Very well said! Another angle to see it from, which is good. That is a really good way to explain it - I have found when reading the biographies of the most successful people, that they would completely agree with all of this. It's all about choices, down to the thoughts we allow to come in and take residence in our minds. I have been slowly learning this more and more completely and have been trying to take small but decided steps in this direction, determined to not go back. :) thanks again for stopping by and for referencing this post! It helps solidify just a bit more the lessons I am learning. :)